Accounting for Opioids in Orange County

Photo: DonJohnstonLC/Flickr

About 700 people die every year in Orange County due from drug and alcohol overdoses. That’s according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Of those 700 deaths, not quite 470 were “related to opioid use.” And of those, 262 are “related to prescription opioids.”

If you’re curious about where people in Orange are getting those prescription pills, you might want to check out the Washington Post‘s new opioid database, which draws from Drug Enforcement Agency records. The database accounts for the sale of nearly 400 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills from 2006 through 2012.

“For the first time, a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States — by manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city — has been made public,” states the Post. “These records provide an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths during the seven-year time frame ending in 2012.”

According to the database, 508,082,537 prescription pain pills went to Orange County during the 2006-2012 period. In California, only Los Angeles and San Diego Counties had larger numbers than that.

Actavis Pharma manufactured the largest share of those pills (181,964,342 of them). Pills also came from SpecGX (166,078,794), Par Pharmaceutical (78,935,910), Purdue Pharma (18,932,184), and Amneal Pharmaceuticals (13,311,802).

From there, AmeriSourceBergen Drug distributed the highest tally of pills (85,891,930). McKesson distributed another 83,649,260 of the pills, with CVS (81,546,300), Walgreen (69,324,070), and Thrifty Payless (33,641,480) rounding out the top five.

The prescription drugs were then spread throughout the county’s many pharmacies. Mission Community Pharmacy in Fountain Valley distributed the highest number of the pills (6,938,300). Other top pharmacies included Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Anaheim (6,202,360), CKC Investment (apparently Ben’s Val Mesa Pharmacy) in Fullerton (3,962,640), Assured Pharmacy in Santa Ana (3,858,930), and Garfield Beach CVS (3,744,400).

On Thursday, the same day the Washington Post drug database went live, Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Huntington Beach) and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tennessee) introduced HR 3820, known as the Effective Drug Control Strategy Act. According to Rouda’s office, the bill requires the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to  figure out the effectiveness of federally funded anti-drug initiatives and then publish that information online so the press and public can see it. Because, and this isn’t surprising, that isn’t done right now.

“This year, as many as three times as many Americans could die from a drug overdose as they did before the great recession: Americans will lose close to 70,000 friends and loved ones this year because of the crisis, and no community is unaffected,” Rouda said in a July 18 news release. “Yet, the federal government doesn’t properly monitor or evaluate the programs aimed at curbing substance abuse. I am proud to lead this small but significant step with my friends on both sides of the aisle, and urge my colleagues to join us in taking action to combat the addiction crisis.”

Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.

6 Replies to “Accounting for Opioids in Orange County”

  1. This is the most ridiculous waste of money. How about calling this what it is? The overprescribing of opioids is a direct result from the amer pain assn calling for pain being the fifth vital sign and all accreditation orgs looking for satisfaction of pain relief as a metric. With the current awareness opioid prescribing is lowering and a funded bunch of bean counters will do nothing to mitigate. Typical of legislative branch not understanding a problem and throwing bureaucrats at it

    1. People in chronic pain are not addicts who take pain pills to get high. Period. There are many people in pain who use alternative ways to relieve their pain as well. My concern is that this article doesn’t address the way these pain pills infiltrate the streets; the doctors who become drug dealers. And, what about the large amount of pills coming across the border into California? How are these accounted for? https://abcnews.go.com/US/border-protection-stored-fentanyl-kill-794-million-isnt/story?id=64444041

    1. Only homeless poeple? No. You are dead wrong. I know people that live in trailers all the way to mansions that use drugs. Yes the homeless are the main ones but not the only ones.

  2. Can you do an article on the leading cause of death in the US, cardiovascular disease, and that the only diet ever scientifically proven to reverse it is a whole food plant based diet? It’s the same diet that prevents 14 of the top 15 causes of death in the US.

    So many lives could easily be saved.

    Get evidence based nutrition information at http://www.NutritionFacts.org.

  3. Our ENTIRE country is literally in an OPIOID CRISIS. This does not effect a certain economic class of people, nor does it only effect certain age, race or genders. This crisis, is of EPIDEMIC MEASURE! Our Children are using this drug and our children are overdosing, not just adults! The Feds, the majority of states and even at certain county levels are all trying to get to grip on something that is so far out of control, its almost too late to try and fix. Realistically, there does not seem to be a viable resolution. So what has been the revolutionary answer to the epidemic?
    Make NARCAN more available! instead of coming up with a solution to this addiction epidemic, they are giving out ANOTHER prescription..

    So with all that being said its a pretty HUGE problem this entire country is burdened with….I don’t know what the answer is…something I do know that any addiction has the same end results.
    INSANITY OR DEATH.

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